On Deafness


Jul 14


About the Author:

Angshu 1

Angshu Jajodia


Angshu Jajodia, who has had a hearing impairment since birth, is a post-graduate in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Earlier, he was not able to speak, but can now converse fluently in two languages and is learning a third. He is a member of SAHAS, an organization working in West Bengal which focuses on empowering parents to teach their pre-lingual deaf children to talk. He is also associated with Trinayani, an advocacy group that works towards the cause of disability awareness and support. He is a Guest Lecturer at a private college where he teaches the social work course and is now a JRF scholar pursuing his PhD at Visva-Bharati University in the field of social sciences.

Angshu often reflects on the world’s pageantry, magic, comicality and pain. This is the first in the series of reflective articles on the issues of disability he is writing on behalf of Trinayani. In this article, Angshu shares his experiences as a child growing up with hearing impairment and gives us a peek into his hearing world.


It has been my experience that many people do not comprehend what hearing loss means. Unlike blindness or locomotor disabilities which are visible handicaps, hearing impairment is a hidden disability that has many shades of incapability. People can visualize how it feels to be blind by simply closing their eyes and trying to go about their daily lives, but one cannot shut down the sense of hearing and see how it impedes the regular business of life. This is because hearing impairment is an abstract concept and to understand an abstract concept in concrete terms is a difficult proposition for anybody who has not gone through and experienced actual hearing loss. It is true to such an extent that one has to be deaf to understand what being deaf means. When the teacher in class questions the inability of the hearing impaired student to take down notes despite wearing hearing aids, she is not displaying her lack of sensitivity to the issue but more her lack of comprehension of the difficulty faced by the student in taking down notes just like any other student in the class.

The first gross misconception that people have is that the hearing aid is a substitute for the normal human ear and since the hearing, the impaired student is wearing hearing aids he should be able to hear as normally as any other hearing individual. But nothing could be far from the truth. Nothing can replace God-given hearing, not even cochlear implants. Cochlear implants merely improve the threshold of hearing by eliminating noise and distortion factors. Hearing aids, both body-worn and behind-the-ear, produce a sound that serves as the background for the deaf child to hear other environmental sounds. The deaf child gets used to this background sound or noise produced by the hearing aid, which is more like a constant humming and utilizes this sound to become aware of other sounds in the environment such as people’s voices or the horn of a car.

Any young child learns language by picking it up from the surroundings. This comes automatically and the child does not have to make a special effort to hear what is being said to pick up such language. But for the deaf child learning language becomes an arduous and doubly difficult task since the child has to make a special effort to hear and learn the language word by word, brick by brick. Deaf children can only make out what is being said; they can never fully hear the actual intonation and import of the words spoken. And yet the challenge for the deaf child is to reproduce the words of the language as other hearing people do. This creates a big gap since the deaf child hears one thing and has to reproduce another. This is one main reason why language learning is such a slow and tedious process for deaf children.

Another misconception that parents of hearing-impaired children have is that if my child is deaf and is not picking up the language because of deafness, then if I put on a pair of good quality hearing aids on him, he should now be able to pick up the language just like any other child. But here we again come to the same point discussed before: that a hearing aid cannot replace the normal human ear; not even the world’s best hearing aids, leave alone good, can replace the God-given hearing. When the deaf child puts on hearing aids, everything he hears is highly distorted and merely pumping up the volume of the hearing aid will only serve to increase the distortion level, leaving the child highly confused. The deaf child needs to be taught to make sense of this distorted world of sound, and here is where the intense training and rehabilitation programme comes in. The child needs to be put on the language-learning train and parents need to be in the driver’s seat and teach the child to learn the language.

Since hearing is so distorted and the child has to make sense of a highly distorted world, the child learns to rely on other inputs like lip-reading, situational analysis and circumstantial evidence to get a more complete picture of what is being said. Lip-reading is a very important arsenal in the child’s armour since many words seem to sound alike, and only a movement in the lips shows the difference between the words produced. Situational analysis and circumstantial evidence are extra tools to help the child make out the words being said, stepping in where lip-reading fails to help the child understand. During the situational analysis and circumstantial evidence, the child analyses the present situation and circumstances and matches the received sound inputs by asking himself, is this what Mama said? Did she mean this, since in this sort of situation it has to be this word she said and not any other? Many a time the child concludes such evidence and analysis and the communication cycle is completed. Though it may seem like a set of independent complicated processes for the reader, mind you, all this happens in a flash during the stream of regular conversation. The faster the child can do this processing, the more normal will conversation flow be. When the child fails to catch up with the flow of conversation it is either because the conversation is moving too fast for him to process all sound inputs, or because too many inputs are received at the same time together making it difficult for the child to process them and continue with the conversation. This happens in a group situation where many people are talking at the same time. From my personal experience, I can vouchsafe that this is the main reason why I am comfortable in a one-to-one interaction pattern while I completely lose my way in a group conversation. It has nothing to do with being unsocial or reticent, though frequently I have been told that I am an unsocial person since I tend to avoid group conversations and stick to one-to-one interaction patterns. In a way, it can be said that the deaf child is completely on his toes and practically lives on the edge when it comes to sound awareness. It may seem like nothing so significant, but on a closer look, it is indeed incredible how deaf children can process at such lightning speed, thus lending all normalcy to the conversation while living on the edge. Is it not simply incredible the way the deaf have reinvented themselves to catch up with the hearing world which they so seriously lack?

In daily life at home, school or work, deaf children do encounter problems in unravelling the mysteries of sound, which requires them to be constantly alert and quickly adapt to changing conditions. Regarding note-taking in class, I would like to draw from personal experience and say why it is so difficult to take down notes that the teacher is dictating to the class. When the teacher dictates, the deaf student, unlike his hearing peers, has to use his hearing and lip-reading to first understand what the teacher is saying. Then only can he write down the dictation? It is more like cracking codes. However, by the time the child has finished understanding one sentence and writing it down, the teacher has progressed to the next and perhaps after. Again the child has to employ hearing, lip-reading and situational analysis and circumstantial evidence to understand the next sentence being dictated. By the time he has understood what was said, the teacher is on to the next sentence, before the child has finished writing the previous one. This creates a backlog of unprocessed auditory inputs and as a result the child completely loses the thread of what is being said in class. And when he throws up his hands in exasperation, the teacher gives a frosty-nosed stare and asks him, why (the hell) can’t you write? What are those hearing aids for, show?

It is comments like these that bring into sharp focus the need to make people understand the intrinsic essence of the problems faced by the hearing impaired. It is not the fault of those we label as insensitive: they can be given the benefit of doubt since they are not even aware of the enormity of the struggles we face in our day-to-day living. This is an attempt to take the first step of making people aware so that we all can participate in making a more inclusive society where there is less discrimination and more equality.

23 Responses to “On Deafness”


    Hi Angshu Jajodia, Thanks for sharing this information. I volunteer for an ngo in bangalore during weekends. Got to know so many important things from your blog. Well, whenever I speak (or do sign) with hearing impaired or with Hard of Hearing candidates(having hearing aids), I always make sure that i speak clearly, slowly or sign clearly with them so that they can understand either from Lip reading or through sign language. Great to know that now you can converse in two languages and learning one more. If I can get the details of SAHAS, it will be really greatful becoz I am interested to know how to make pre-lingual deaf kids to talk.

    • Krasny

      Teach deaf baby with sign language just like you teach your heairng baby.But the baby will not show sign language so clear until 5 years old.All my kids are not deaf but their first language was American Sign Language, then later speak English.Just like Asian babies can pick up their foods with chop sticks.Hope this helps.References : I’m the father and I have four kids that are not deaf and I’m deaf.I do know what I am talking about.If those people are not deaf and how do they know this?Most don’t know what I am talking about unless if thier parents are deaf.

  2. Jenny

    My sister tauhgt her son sign language VERY early, before six months I believe. All she did was make the sign while saying the word. For example, she yould ask him, “Do you want some milk?” (saying the word milk slightly louder) and make the sign for milk before giving him any. He learned very quickly that if he wanted milk all he had to do was make the sign, and was able to be very clear about what he wanted. She did that with a few other signs (done, more, and dirty come to mind first, although there were several others.) By the time he was about one, he had replaced most of the signs with baby words, but still used his signs once in a while.For a deaf child, it would probably be the same process, simply without the need of speaking. If you make the sign for milk immediately before breast feeding many times in a row, the baby will quickly learn that the sign means “milk” or “food.”References :

  3. indigestion

    Excellent article. Keep writing such kind of info on your page. Im really impressed by your site.

  4. weight loss pills

    Thanks in favor of sharing such a pleasant thinking, piece of writing is fastidious, thats why i have read it completely
    weight loss pills

  5. home business opportunities

    It’s not my first time to pay a quick visit this site, i am browsing this site dailly and obtain good information from here daily.
    home business opportunities

  6. free homeschooling

    I have read so many articles or reviews regarding the blogger lovers but this post is genuinely a nice article, keep it up.
    free homeschooling

  7. aging skin

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!
    aging skin

  8. reduce cellulite

    Hello! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the great work!
    reduce cellulite

  9. cures for anxiety

    I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite certain I will learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!
    cures for anxiety

  10. what is healthy eating

    Hello there, You have done an incredible job. I’ll definitely digg it and in my view suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this site.
    what is healthy eating

  11. gardening tip

    Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks
    gardening tip

  12. stock investing tips

    Hi my family member! I wish to say that this article is awesome, great written and include approximately all vital infos. I would like to see extra posts like this .
    stock investing tips

  13. portafogli economici Louis Vuitton

    You completed some fine points there. I did a search on the theme and found mainly folks will consent with your blog.
    portafogli economici Louis Vuitton

  14. Enola

    Thanks to my father who shared with me concerning this website, this webpage is genuinely awesome.


  15. my site

    I just want to say I am new to blogging and definitely liked this web page. Almost certainly I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You really come with impressive articles. Regards for sharing with us your web page.

  16. real visitors

    Thanks for another wonderful article. Where else could anyone get that type of information in such an ideal approach of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such info.
    sindy seo

  17. useful source

    I just want to say I am new to blogging and site-building and certainly savored your page. Most likely I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You really come with really good articles and reviews. Many thanks for revealing your webpage.

  18. zaborilenta

    Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. I

  19. click

    I just want to say I am newbie to blogging and site-building and honestly savored your website. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You actually have amazing article content. Thanks for revealing your blog site.

  20. Learn More

    I simply want to mention I’m new to blogs and honestly loved you’re page. More than likely I’m planning to bookmark your website . You really have incredible posts. Kudos for revealing your web page.

  21. cheap payday loans

    awesome post. Thank u.

  22. check that

    I just want to mention I am just all new to blogs and definitely loved your web page. More than likely I’m want to bookmark your website . You certainly have terrific article content. With thanks for revealing your website page.

Leave a comment